Pecial matric lunch function held at Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksberg. Picture:Antoine de Ras, 02/01/2013

Johannesburg - Three out of four pupils who wrote matric last year passed. The pass rate for the class of 2012 is 73.9 percent – a 3.7 percentage point increase on 2011’s 70.2 percent.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who announced the results in Joburg late on Wednesday, said Gauteng was the top province with a 83.9 percent pass rate. This is up from last year’s 81.1 percent.

The Western Cape, number one in 2011 with 82.9 percent and the only province that dropped last year, slipped to number two with a pass rate of 82.8 percent.

The improved showing was welcomed by experts.

Professor Ruksana Osman, head of the Wits School of Education, said the results came as no surprise. He said incremental increases in the pass rate were a good sign.

Lynn Bowie, a lecturer in mathematics education at Wits, said she was very pleased with the increase in the maths pass rate.

She said the maths exam papers were of a good quality last year.

The concern was that 30 percent was required for a pass, but higher marks in maths are needed to get into tertiary institutions. “I would like to see a breakdown of what pupils got for maths,” Bowie said.


Motshekga attributed the higher national pass rate to “systematic interventions” that were introduced in schools for teachers and pupils and at district, provincial and the national offices for departmental officials.

“Teachers are empowered with clear, concise and unambiguous curriculum and assessment statements. This helps in improving the learners’ ability to count, read and write,” the minister said.

“Our national strategy for improving literacy and numeracy has assisted in improving education quality. It has strengthened the teachers’ capacity to teach, in particular, the literacy and numeracy curriculum.”

The matric exams were written by more than 500 000 full-time candidates, an increase of more than 15 000 pupils from 2011’s 496 090.

Of the 511 152 pupils who wrote, 377 829 passed.

To pass matric, a pupil needs to pass three subjects with a minimum of 40 percent and three subjects with 30 percent or more; one of these must be a home language with a minimum of 40 percent.

The department’s director-general, Bobby Soobrayan, said the bachelor pass rate (university entrance pass) was key to gauging the well-being of the education system.

Of the 2012 matrics who passed, 26.6 percent achieved a university entrance pass, up from 24.3 percent in 2011.


Motshekga said the department was aiming to achieve a university pass rate of 32 percent by 2014, a figure Soobrayan said the department was on track to accomplish.

Pass rates for the crucial subjects of maths and physical science are up.

The maths pass rate for 2012 was 54 percent, up from 46.3 percent the year before. The 2012 physical science pass rate was 61.3 percent, up from 53.4 percent.

Soobrayan said he was concerned that while the number of girl pupils who wrote exams was climbing, the number of boys writing exams was fluctuating. He said girls tended to stay in school longer, and dropout rates were higher among boys.

“The story of the boy learner is becoming bleak… The girls are climbing steadily but the boys are fluctuating. It’s an important factor for the country,” he said.

Motshekga said pupils who did not make it must not lose heart.

“There are many options for improving your results or pursuing alternative career paths.

“Your results notwithstanding, this is not the end of the world. We all learn from trial and error,” she said.


74%: The number who passed nationally – up from 70% in 2011

27%: The number who got university passes – up from 24% in 2011

54%: The number who passed maths – up from 46% in 2011

61%: The number who passed physical science – up from 53% in 2011

84%: The number who passed in Gauteng – up from 81% in 2011


45%: The number of ‘ Born Frees’ who started school in 2001 and eventually passed matric, according to Equal Education.

Provinces by numbers

Eastern Cape 62% (58% in 2011)

Free State 81% (76%)

Gauteng 84% (81%)

KZN 73% (68%)

Limpopo 67% (64%)

Mpumalanga 70% (65%)

North West 80% (78%)

Northern Cape 75% (69%)

Western Cape 83% (83%)

National 74% (70%)

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The Star